Jun 16, 2019

Sullivan and Swain Secure USEA Area IX's Charles Owen Technical Merit Award

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
Swain and Irish Rover. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.

Blue skies, low humidity, and a mountainous landscape - there’s a lot to love about the small town of Ogden, Utah, but the love doesn’t stop with the scenery. For the past 32 years, the Wasatch Pony Club comes together to organize Golden Spike Horse Trials in Ogden, making it one of out of two USEA recognized horse trials in Utah. Area IX might not have an abundance of events but where they lack quantity, they make up for in quality. This year they celebrated their 32nd year hosting the event and also celebrated another year of hosting USEA Area IX’s Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. On Sunday, June 16, Molly Sullivan and Kate Swain were named the two winners of the award for Area IX.

Sullivan and Fernhill Friend Request. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.

At 9:50 a.m., Molly Sullivan left the start box with her horse, Fernhill Friend Request and at 9:55 a.m., they had earned themselves an award unlike any other: the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. Making easy work of the Training level cross-country course, Wayne Quarles awarded Sullivan as the junior recipient of USEA Area IX’s Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.

A partnership of only two months, Sullivan explained her relationship with the 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. “We just moved up to Training level, but he was perfect. I got him in Ocala, Florida from Alex Green. I’m planning to show him at Training level for the rest of the year to get used to him, and then hopefully turn him into a two- or three-star horse. That’s my goal.”

Sullivan and Fernhill Friend Request (aka Mars) finished fourth in the Open Training division at Golden Spike Horse Trials, which adds another top-five finish to their record. “This is my second show with him. Our first show we finished third in the Novice at Skyline.”

Sullivan and Fernhill Friend Request. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.

“His favorite phase is definitely cross-country,” Sullivan said without question.

As Sullivan packed up her things for her four-hour drive home to Pinedale, Wyoming she reflected on how she got hooked on eventing. “I live on a cattle ranch and grew up around Quarter Horses. There was a girl that started boarding her horse at our place and she was a jumper. I thought that looked fun and so I started jumping when I was eight years old and fell in love with it.”

“The course was really fun,” said Sullivan and her mother, Carla added, “We’re really excited about this pair. I think the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is very important for the sport.”

Swain and Irish Rover on course. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.


“I thought that Kate Swain did a nice job all the way around,” said Wayne Quarles after the Training level riders finished cross-country. Swain, who made the course look like a walk in the park, was the adult recipient of Area IX’s Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. Swain and Irish Rover, the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Dee McCarthy, finished second in the Open Training division but took home blue with winning the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.

There’s a backstory to every victory and Swain explained hers. “This is my second year competing him. We just got back from Colorado Horse Park where I fell off at fence four, so the last two weeks have been very stressful. Timing was not perfect to come here but we felt like we needed to come in order to get our confidence back.”

“He was great today. I’m really happy with him,” Swain said of Irish Rover (aka Burke). “The course rode great and the [Wasatch Pony Club] has put in a ton of work to the course.”

Irish Rover, Kate Swain, and Dee McCarthy. USEA/Claire Kelley Photo.

“They’re like a second family,” Swain described Lynnleigh Farm, the farm she’s been riding at since she was eight years old. It’s also the same farm that connected her to Burke’s owner, Dee McCarthy.

In 2016, Dee McCarthy and Kate Swain paired up after enduring two tragedies of their own. McCarthy explained, “I recently lost my mare in September 2016 and Kate had just recently lost her young horse. I’ve known Kate since she was young, so I asked her, ‘what do you think about riding and competing Burke and I’ll just do the flatwork?’ We started that two years ago and we’ve had a good time,” said McCarthy. “It’s been awesome,” Swain added.

A horse who's loved by both owner and rider, McCarthy described how he became part of the family. “I come from a long line of foxhunting and eventing. After losing my mare, I knew that I needed to get another horse. A crew of us from Lynnleigh went to Aiken, S.C. where I rode Burke. I thought his gaits were good and his attitude was fabulous. So, I bought him from Laura Vandervliet and brought him home.”

An award that recognizes safe riding, McCarthy emphasized, “With the passing of Roy Burek, who did so much to promote awareness and safety in the sport, this award is a great honor.”

Congratulations to Molly Sullivan, Kate Swain, and everyone involved for putting on a successful event!

About the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award

In 2009, the Professional Horseman’s Council in partnership with Charles Owen founded the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award to reward juniors and adult amateurs for demonstrating safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique and educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe cross-country riding.

The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is presented at one event in each USEA Area each year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who have not competed at the Intermediate level or above. Every eligible rider at the Training level is automatically judged during their cross-country round on the five criteria listed below and receives a score sheet with written comments, providing valuable feedback on their cross-country riding technique. Level III and IV ICP Instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders are all qualified to judge the Award. Click here to learn more about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.

The USEA would like to thank Charles Owen for sponsoring the Technical Merit Award.

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